Vote 13 - Office of Public Works (Supplementary)

I welcome the Minister of State and his officials to discuss the Supplementary Estimate. Apologies have been received from Deputies Pearse Doherty and Michael McGrath. Deputies Quinlivan and Eugene Murphy are attending in substitution for them. We are considering the Supplementary Estimate for Vote 13 for the Office of Public Works on foot of the order of the Dáil of 21 November that it be referred to the select committee. I invite the Minister of State to make his opening statement.

I am here as Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works and flood relief to present a proposal for a Supplementary Estimate of €20 million for the Office of Public Works, OPW. The Supplementary Estimate will bring the 2018 net Estimate for the Vote to €424.214 million. The gross Supplementary Estimate is €22 million which comprises costs of €18 million associated with the papal visit this year and an estimated additional spend of €4 million on new works, alterations and additions.

The Government agreed to facilitate a visit by Pope Francis to the World Meeting of Families during August. It was a large and complex event. The OPW, in conjunction with the Department of the Taoiseach, devised the papal visit management plan with the World Meeting of Families, adopting a whole-of-government approach to ensure the health, safety and welfare of participants and visitors. In implementing the plan the OPW did outstanding work to facilitate the event. It facilitated the safety of all involved, while at the same time showcasing, nationally and internationally, the attractiveness of Ireland as a country and its ability to host such an event. Like any event of this magnitude, there are associated costs involved which, in this case, amount to €18 million. As the event had not been finalised when the 2018 Estimates were published this time last year, the OPW Vote contained no allocation in the 2018 Estimate for the visit.

The OPW also expended an additional sum of €4 million on new works, alterations and additions. They include work on Leinster House and the rationalisation programme for the Department of Justice and Equality which was committed to in 2019 but advanced by the OPW to 2018. In order to reduce the required Supplementary Estimate, I have sought to allocate €2 million in additional appropriations-in-aid received by the OPW against this request, thereby reducing the requirement to €20 million. It is worth noting that the OPW expects to provide €25.749 million for the Exchequer for appropriations-in-aid in 2018. The vast bulk of this income is from the effective promotion of Ireland's heritage sites and efficient management of visitor demands and events at managed facilities of the OPW, including Dublin Castle, Kilkenny Castle and Castletown House.

The request for the Supplementary Estimate feeds from efficient and effective work undertaken by the OPW on behalf of the Government. I am happy to recommend it for consideration and approval by the committee and answer questions members may have about the additional requirement. If some of the questions are technical, my officials will be able to provide assistance.

We have received the more detailed figures yesterday or today and are delving into them. Perhaps the Minister of State might explain the work being done in Leinster House. He referred to projects, including Leinster House, in the context of additional expenditure in 2018. It is not just on the Pope's visit as it includes other figures.

Work is ongoing and to be completed in the summer of 2019. There are works being carried out, but the refurbishment work on the electrics in different areas of Leinster House is the reason we require some of the supplemental money.

Was it not included in the original quotation for the works?

Mr. John McMahon

Perhaps I can assist. There is the main refurbishment of the old historical Leinster House which is under way. The entire project will be completed by the summer of next year. However, other works were undertaken on the Oireachtas campus. The Chairman will recall the relocation of the Seanad Chamber to the Ceramic Room in the National Museum of Ireland, as well as the refurbishment of the committee rooms that was carried out during the summer. There were other works of that nature. It is an accumulation of smaller works contracts that are separate from the main refurbishment project.

What is the cost?

Mr. John McMahon

The cost of what?

The work on Leinster House.

Mr. John McMahon

The main refurbishment project.

Mr. McMahon can also give us the cost of that project.

Mr. John McMahon

We do not know the definite final cost yet, but it will be approximately €16 million.

What is the figure for the works on Leinster House contained in the Supplementary Estimate?

Mr. John McMahon

It is €2.5 million.

Can Mr. McMahon give a breakdown of the figures for the papal visit?

Mr. John McMahon

We only received final confirmation that there was a green light for the visit in the middle of the year, although we were preparing for it in advance. It was a huge logistical exercise, involving dozens of contractors, all procured under frameworks and in accordance with the rules and regulations. We also deployed much of our direct labour force. We had set-ups in ten areas, not just the Phoenix Park, although the one there was by far the biggest. We also had set-ups at Dublin Airport, Áras an Uachtaráin, the Dublin Castle State Apartments, along the papal city route, at St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral, the Capuchin Day Centre for Homeless People, Knock airport, Knock, Knock Shrine, as well as the three media centre set-ups. It was an enormous logistical exercise and from a management perspective we were delighted with the outcome and how it went. There were no incidents or accidents. It should be said, with reference to the previous papal mass in 1979 and the one this year, that health and safety represent a far more prevalent requirement now than it might have been in 1979. It required many onerous but necessary actions by us.

I will not go through the process of how we got to it as the committee is interested in the cost. The cost of which we are absolutely sure, in other words, what has already been paid, is €16.5 million. There is a further expense of approximately €800,000, of which the biggest element is the cost of meeting the condition of Dublin City Council which allowed us to take down the Phoenix Park gates. We took down most but not all of the park gates for health and safety reasons and to allow people in and out. The condition was that we would refurbish them and put them back up. In fact, they were taken down in 1979 and put back up again. They were taken down again in 2018. They are the old historical metal gates in the park which have huge heritage value.

The cost of refurbishing them has not yet been quantified. We have an idea, but we do not know the precise cost.

Was all of the expenditure on the Pope's visit, amounting to €18 million, related to the procurement process and outcomes?

Mr. John McMahon

Yes; 99% of it.

How then can Mr. McMahon say he is not sure about the remainder? He has said €16 million was paid out. Therefore, why is he not sure about the remaining €2 million?

Mr. John McMahon

The gates were taken down under contract. It is a separate contract and the gates are now in storage. The work that has to be done on them is very specialised and technical and being assessed before going to tender. It will not be done for the next six or seven months, when the original gates will be put back up. Temporary gates are in place.

Mr. McMahon is hung up on the gates. Will he explain to me the position on the balance of €2 million?

Mr. John McMahon

As I said, €16.5 million has been spent for sure. It is estimated that approximately €800,000 will need to be spent as a consequence of the papal visit. That will bring us up to a figure of €17.4 million.

What is the €800,000 needed for?

Mr. John McMahon

The figure for the refurbishment of the gates is about €600,000. There are also some catering bills still to be paid.

Is Mr. McMahon saying it might cost €600,000 to refurbish the gates?

Mr. John McMahon

Yes.

Then there are catering bills.

Mr. John McMahon

Yes. There were Internet services and other reinstatement works, as well as work on pedestrian routes and kerbing. There are some small translation bills to be paid. The bills that are left are all relatively small. The vast majority of the bills have been paid.

We have received from the OPW two pages on OPW expenditure as of 23 November. For camera platforms, media risers and track-way, there is a figure of €4.9 million.

Mr. John McMahon

Yes.

Was there a procurement process for that work?

Mr. John McMahon

There was a procurement process for all of this expenditure.

I want to go through it. What type of competition was held? Were there four tenders or was there one?

Mr. John McMahon

I cannot answer the question about each item, but I can state we had frameworks in place. The events unit in the OPW handles many events. There was not just a single papal mass unit. The events unit handles all State events every year, including the State commemoration events generally held in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.

We are not dealing with that matter today.

Mr. John McMahon

I know. What I am trying to say is there were frameworks put in place to deal with stuff or events other than the papal mass.

The stuff on the first line cost almost €5 million. I want to know about the tendering process for it.

Mr. John McMahon

As I was saying, there were frameworks in place already-----

I understand that. It is a little like Mr. McMahon's line in praising himself for returning the €25.749 million to the Exchequer. The role of the OPW is to manage historical and heritage sites. That is part of its function. I say, "Well done," but that is it. The other part of the OPW's function is to account for how money is spent. If the OPW spent €5 million on camera platforms, media risers and so on, I expect Mr. McMahon to be able to tell us that there were four or five quotations and that the tender was awarded to an Irish firm or whoever else.

Mr. John McMahon

In the establishment of the frameworks, it was done by a competitive process. The firms placed in the framework got there through the competitive process. There was a competitive process in the past that was utilised to procure the stuff for the-----

Mr. McMahon is telling me the same company that may have been used in the past because it had won a competitive tender was used for the Pope's visit.

Mr. John McMahon

In many of these circumstances, yes.

There was not a specific tender process for it.

Mr. John McMahon

There was no time for a specific tender process.

That is fine. Mr. McMahon should just have told us that.

For cleaning works, road sweeping and waste disposal, there is a figure of €649,000.

Mr. John McMahon

Same again.

Was there an independent contractor?

Mr. John McMahon

Again, it would have involved using the framework that was in place.

Was it an independent contractor that did the work through a tender process, or was it done by the staff of the OPW?

Mr. John McMahon

No. Ailesbury was the name of the company used. The work was done by an outside contractor.

The next item covers campaign mailing, print and data.

Mr. John McMahon

An Post was used for that purpose.

What was that about?

Mr. John McMahon

It largely involved informing the local community about road closures, what was going on and how the park would be affected. I refer primarily to the Phoenix Park but also Knock, I believe. It was essentially a matter of providing public information.

For which the figure was roughly €163,000 or €164,000.

Mr. John McMahon

Yes.

What did the work of administrative staff entail?

Mr. John McMahon

This relates to a private company, Arcana. The bill was for its administrative work. I do not have more specific information on it, but I can get it for the Chairman.

What administrative work would it have done? In other words, was the Pope's visit not dealt with totally in-house?

Mr. John McMahon

Of course not.

Therefore, administrative staff were brought in.

Mr. John McMahon

Yes.

For what purpose?

Mr. John McMahon

I cannot give specific answers on the specific administrative work the company was doing, but it was a considerable logistical exercise which required a lot of hands at the pumps.

The figure for logistics, site management and signage is over €750,000.

Mr. John McMahon

It is €800,000.

It is €801,000.

Mr. John McMahon

Again, it is for all necessary preparatory work related to the-----

I am not arguing the point with Mr. McMahon. I just want to know more about the figures.

Mr. John McMahon

I cannot add more, other than to say that is what it cost to handle the logistics.

"Logistics" is a big word.

Mr. John McMahon

It is.

What does it mean?

Mr. John McMahon

Management and organisation.

There is a reference to "Labour for assembly of 50 POD's, Mini Hospital equipment, Handheld Suction Pump and Rescuer MVP" and so on. That is labour content.

Mr. John McMahon

Yes.

Did this work also involve an independent company?

Mr. John McMahon

I am pretty sure Critical Healthcare is an independent company.

The figure for preparation of an event management plan is almost €2.5 million. Also referred to are advice and consultancy and an event control co-ordinator. Mr. McMahon is giving us the headlines. I want to get into the nitty-gritty of the figures, but so far he has not done so. They are big figures.

Mr. John McMahon

Unfortunately that is what is before me. I did not realise the Chairman would want so much detail, but it is perfectly fine. We can provide all of the information. I just do not have it to hand.

The cost of electrical services, power installation, the fire alarm system and generator hire was almost €1 million. Stewards cost €635,000. How many stewards were there? Were they obtained through a private company?

Mr. John McMahon

There were private stewards and there were also OPW stewards.

What was the name of the private company?

Mr. John McMahon

There was a mixture of the two.

Was the €635,000 for private stewards, or was it for private and-----

Mr. John McMahon

It was for private stewards.

There is a figure of approximately €1 million, as well as a figure of approximately €600,000.

We are working our way down. If the Deputy wants to contribute, he should, please, indicate. There is no problem in that regard.

In the Minister of State's contribution he said the estimated cost of the papal visit was €18 million. The figure given is €17.393 million. We are missing €607,000. Can Mr. McMahon explain it, or am I misreading the figures? I am aware that there are payments outstanding, but I imagine they have been factored in.

Mr. John McMahon

At the very outside, the figure is €18 million. However, I do not expect it to be €18 million. I am optimistic that it will be in the region of €17.5 million. The figure that brings it to €18 million is a contingency sum. It will not exceed €18 million.

Mr. McMahon is saying that, potentially, it could be €600,000 more.

Mr. John McMahon

No.

The OPW came in saying, "€18 million", and it has given us figures of €17 million. I understand there could be stuff outstanding but the OPW also has allowed for €847,000 of payments outstanding.

Mr. John McMahon

It is €16.5 million for certain. The other €800,000 is the best estimate of what the remainder will be. The balance, from that figure up to €18 million, is really a contingency sum unless something emerges. I do not expect it will. It will be approximately €17.5 million.

The question we will come to later on concerns the stewards. The OPW has it down twice. Mr. McMahon might explain that.

Mr. John McMahon

It is down twice because there are different companies involved.

Did any of the costs for the visit include the rent of premises?

Mr. John McMahon

There was no rented premises other than the rent of temporary buildings. If one considers those to be premises, there would have been. In terms of permanent buildings, there were none.

Was any cost for accommodation for visitors included in any of that?

Mr. John McMahon

No.

Were any transportation costs for visitors or those who attended the visit included in those figures?

Mr. John McMahon

Transport is included in one of the figures at the end of the schedule. There is a long list of stuff in the schedule. I cannot tell the Deputy how much is particularly for transport in that item but I can get that information for the Deputy.

I thank Mr. McMahon for what he has given us. I agree with the Chairman that we need to see a greater breakdown of those. It involves €1.6 million for stewards. We could get an idea of how many stewards were there and for how long were they working. It would be important to get a more detailed breakdown.

Mr. John McMahon

Absolutely, yes.

As somebody who lives beside the park, I must say the OPW has done a good job of clearing up after the visit in what is probably the premier park in Ireland and which attracts a significant number of international visitors. However, I want to ask about a number of matters both in this case and regarding the fact that the park does not receive any money from some enormous lucrative events that are held there.

At the time of the Pope's visit, one particular firm's signs were all over the place, namely, a company called Actavo. Was this company on a informal contract or was it a preferred bidder? It seemed, to expand on what the Chairman was asking, to be providing a vast amount of the facilities at the time of the Pope's visit. Can Mr. McMahon enlighten us as to whether Actavo was contracted for that? What kind of money was Actavo getting in OPW contracts in the context of the Pope's visit?

Mr. John McMahon

The expenditure to Actavo was just under €5 million. The company was contracted on the basis of a framework contract that was already in place. As I explained earlier, as we do many events other than the papal mass, we have framework contracts in place from which we draw. The drawing on the framework contracts in this instance was necessitated by the fact that the confirmation of the papal visit and the State support for it only happened in the middle of the year, in mid-June, and we only had weeks to prepare for that.

I am aware of that.

Mr. John McMahon

It was to deal with that considerable logistical requirement that we piggybacked on that framework contract.

As Mr. McMahon will be aware, there are five or six cafes plus caterers in the zoo and at other points in the park. Many of them are small businesses. In fact, as with the walled garden and the organic vegetables, it is fantastic. I was merely surprised that none of them seemed to have been involved in being preferred caterers, other than being asked to be open. Clearly, when staff and members of the Garda were working in the final days of the preparation, they had more business. I am really concerned. My understanding is that Actavo is part of Mr. Denis O'Brien's commercial interests and he is either the managing director or chairperson of that company.

There are many small cafes in the park and I am not aware that they are part of bigger conglomerates. I merely wonder what role, if any, did such businesses in the food sector, which could involve people from Kilkenny, Carlow or anywhere around Ireland, play in the papal mass. Everything seemed to be stamped "Actavo". The company seemed to dominate everything in what was a world conference. Normally, one would expect local providers. I am aware the Pope's visit was not confirmed until late. I want to be fair but I would like to know about that.

There were Ed Sheeran concerts in the park earlier in the year which, I am told, were fabulously successful but I am not aware that a ha'penny of any of the money made on them went back into the park. I accept there is an estimate here for the railings. For those who might not know the park, the railings are historically important and practically must be remade by expert craftspeople over a long period. I understand that. In the case of the Bloom festival, for example, there was considerable traffic congestion all around the park for days and residents were basically locked in their homes. Can the OPW confirm whether anything went back into the park from the Bloom receipts and the Ed Sheeran concerts?

Much work needs to be done in the park. I commend the OPW on the work it has commenced on the Magazine Fort, in reinstating what is a bit of a ruin and a wreck, and which will eventually be a world-class attraction for Dublin. I am aware, from acquaintances who are working on that project, that it will take years because there is an insufficient supply of funding. Significant events are being run in the park, they are packed out but yet the park itself, and for that matter, the OPW, seem to be getting nothing back. Did any money from the Bloom festival or from the super-successful, fantastic Ed Sheeran concerts go towards park infrastructure? I ask because local residents agreed to put up with a lot of disruption on the understanding there would be a dividend for both the park and the OPW for all of the infrastructure it looks after well around the country. I put it to the OPW that there needs to be a return from these important public events and I would like an account of it.

All I can say is whoever organised the Pope's visit - it was not the OPW, as it was a taker of orders based on a Government decision - scared most older people in Ireland into thinking that they could not do a two-mile walk up the main avenue. Those in charge of health and safety went overboard. People in wheelchairs were not allowed on the main avenue. Buses, which could have picked up many participants, were not allowed on the main avenue. Did the church group, which was organising it, call the shots on that? There needs to be a re-evaluation.

During the first papal visit to Ireland years ago, there were none of these holding pens and gates. For many, these destroyed the visit because where a family booked four tickets, they got one ticket for one gate, a ticket for another gate and a further ticket for yet another gate. The park walls, as I am sure the OPW officials will be aware, are nine miles long. Can the officials imagine a case where a person's mother gets a ticket for one gate, the person's ticket is for a gate two miles away, her husband's ticket is for a gate two miles away from there and the person's granny's ticket is for a gate a further two miles away. Whoever designed that system, it was mental. Many elderly people, people in wheelchairs and people with weaker health, who were among those who were keenest to see the Pope in person, were told they were putting themselves at threat.

The third aspect I want to ask about is the big bill for medical aid.

Is that in addition to what the Irish Red Cross and the Civil Defence were doing? They are based in the Department. I will finish on this one.

There are three hospitals within a stone's throw of the park, namely, St. James's Hospital, which is across the river, the Mater Hospital and Connolly Hospital, which is right next door. I would like the massive expenditure on logistics to be explained. Perhaps it relates to people who may have been suffering serious health issues, but who never arrived.

Mr. John McMahon

I will try to go backwards through all of that. The medical provision relates to on-site medical care. There are hospitals in the general vicinity. It was expected that we would have a crowd of 500,000 or more in the Phoenix Park alone. It did not work out that way in the end. I am talking about the prediction before the event took place. We also had to provide on-site medical facilities at the other nine or ten venues where we were involved in logistical arrangements for the papal visit. It was not just the Phoenix Park where we had to make this provision. It was also needed at the State apartments at Dublin Castle, the papal city route, St. Mary's Pro Cathedral, the Capuchin Day Centre and other locations, particularly Knock. These on-site medical costs were required. It turned out to be a very wet day. I was personally quite concerned about slips, trips and falls on such a wet day. I have been told that there were a couple of small injuries, but we were very lucky that there was nothing significant. No bones were broken anyway.

The OPW had no involvement in the issuing of tickets for the event. That was handled by the Catholic Church as part of the World Meeting of Families. All of the ticketing arrangements were done by the World Meeting of Families as the event organisers.

Did anyone in the OPW consider that this was a very complex way of arranging for family or parish groups that planned to go together to be able to proceed into the park?

Mr. John McMahon

We were not involved in the ticketing arrangements or the invitation arrangements. It was not our role to start questioning how it was being done.

The OPW was not asked for its advice.

Mr. John McMahon

To the best of my knowledge, we were not asked for our advice.

Maybe that is-----

Mr. John McMahon

The Deputy also asked about the construction of corrals. As I mentioned, over 1 million people were reportedly in the Phoenix Park in 1979. I have heard doubts and questions about that figure because there were no counters involved. We had counters at this year's event. For control reasons, we knew exactly how many people were coming in through the gates. No such facilities were used in 1979. I do not know whether 1 million people were there. Anyway, let us say that there were. It was expected that over 500,000 people would show up at this year's event. Corralling is a necessary control mechanism for a crowd of that size. As it turned out, a crowd of that size did not show up. We had to plan on the basis of the best guess prior to the event, which was that there would be more than 500,000 people in attendance.

The Deputy referred to the effect on the park of three big events that were held there this year - the Ed Sheeran concerts, the Bloom festival, which is in its tenth or 11th year, and the papal visit, which thankfully does not happen very often. We hosted a multiplicity of things as well as those events. We host up to 300 events in the Phoenix Park every year, including charity runs. Approximately 10 million people visit the park every year. Over 10 million people of all shapes and sizes come in through the gates to do all sorts of things. I refer, for example, to commuters and those who visit various facilities in the park, including Dublin Zoo and Farmleigh.

I thank the Deputy for her kind comments about the Phoenix Park. We are very proud of how good a facility it is. Deputies might not be aware that it recently won a gold medal at the world urban parks conference in Melbourne. We are very proud of that as well. We think we present the Phoenix Park to an exceptionally high standard. That has been verified by an international benchmark. I am not saying I could not do even better things with the Phoenix Park if I had an open chequebook. I would be delighted to do so.

Did the OPW get any money back from Bloom, Ed Sheeran or anything like that?

Mr. John McMahon

I will come to that now. The papal visit was handled by the State free of charge. No money came back to the OPW from the papal visit. No rent was charged or anything like that. We are here today because of the costs involved.

We support Bord Bia in the running of Bloom. It is almost a partnership arrangement. It has grown from very small beginnings into a major event that rivals the Chelsea Flower Show or any similar event. It is a unique event because it is not just a flower show like Chelsea; it is also a mechanism for small producers of all sorts of food and other artefacts and heritage items, including some of the people about whom the Deputy spoke earlier, to sell their wares. It is a big showcase for them every year. The way we look at it is that we are supporting indigenous Irish industry and indigenous Irish food by agreeing to allow-----

Does the OPW get accounts from Bloom of its gross revenues from these events?

Mr. John McMahon

No, we do not.

Do the organisers of Bloom pay anything back to the OPW?

Mr. John McMahon

They do not pay anything.

A ticket to Bloom is dear enough.

Mr. John McMahon

The only thing we get back is when they pay for any damage. We receive a bond from them which covers any damage that may occur. If there is really bad weather, as we had a number of years ago, the ground gets churned up because of the number of people in a concentrated location. In such circumstances, we are able to use the money from the bond to repair the ground. We take measures to protect the park from any damage that might be done, but we do not get any income from it. The State got an income from the Ed Sheeran concerts.

How much did it get?

Mr. John McMahon

It received €600,000.

How much does Mr. McMahon reckon that the gross income from the concerts would have been? They were very successful.

Mr. John McMahon

It would have been much more than €600,000.

Did the OPW get a full set of accounts? I am following up on what the Chairman said. We know there are costs involved, but is there a kind of financial construct whereby the venues get some reinvestment back through the State from hosting these events? As I have mentioned, when these mega-events happen, by and large, those who live in the neighbourhood are unable to move out of their houses. They support these events for the sake of the facilities in the park.

Mr. John McMahon

I would love if Government accounting procedures allowed the OPW to retain the income it generates in total from its heritage assets. Unfortunately, it does not work that way for us. Any income we get, like the €600,000 I have mentioned, goes into appropriations-in-aid and is returned to the Exchequer. We have to argue during the Estimates process for moneys to invest in the Phoenix Park and all of our other heritage assets. We hope and expect that the Government will recognise that these facilities generate income, and support them during the Estimates process by making investment over a prolonged period of time. As I have said, I cannot lay a hand on a penny of the money that comes in. I am afraid that is the way it is. I wish it were otherwise.

I call Deputy Eugene Murphy.

The first thing we should say is that the event went off very well. The OPW should be complimented on that. It was a huge undertaking. I want to acknowledge publicly that the OPW does a good job when it does its work and caters for events like this. Like the Chairman and other Deputies, I would like to ask some questions today. Was the "Event Control Coordinator", who is mentioned in the section of the document dealing with "Preparation of Event Management Plan", appointed by the OPW or was that person provided by the OPW from within its own staff?

Mr. John McMahon

We had our own event management people, but obviously we needed many more people than we could provide from the small and limited number of people we have at our own disposal.

The same section of the document also refers to an "Event Controller".

Mr. John McMahon

Yes.

Did that person act as a deputy to the event control co-ordinator, or was it a different role?

Mr. John McMahon

I honestly cannot answer that question.

I accept that Mr. McMahon might not have all the answers here. Would it be possible to find out how much the event control co-ordinator cost and who that person was?

Mr. John McMahon

Yes, it would be.

Mr. John McMahon

This service was provided by a company called EOBA.

Mr. John McMahon

Within that, we would be able to identify what the particular cost of that was.

That is fine. I am querying this just to find out.

Mr. John McMahon

Sure.

I am moving on to the section of the document dealing with "Marquee Hire", etc. To what does "Site Area Hire" refer?

Mr. John McMahon

I am guessing somewhat in terms of site area hire. We had parking issues with the even in Knock which required us to acquire what were essentially fields in which to park cars. It may well relate to that.

Below that, we find the Phoenix Park gates. I understand that this is very specialised work and I accept that it will cost quite a lot but the figure listed is €244,000.

Mr. John McMahon

That was for taking them down and putting up temporary gates. The temporary gates had to be virtually permanent. It involved the taking down of the gates in a proper, organised and competent fashion and their replacing them with galvanised metal gates, which the Deputy might have seen if he was there, because we had to secure the park.

Is spending €250,000 justified?

Mr. John McMahon

That is what it cost.

The final section relates to IT equipment. What did the tree surgery works to which reference is made involve? Obviously, they involved tree surgery but-----

Mr. John McMahon

A question was asked earlier about transport. If memory serves, some bus transport was organised within the park. I am not too sure whether we did it or whether others were involved. It may been outside operators delivering people to the event but when the routes were determined, it emerged that there were branches overhanging them. This was particularly the case in Knock. I know this for a fact because I visited Knock. The route around the shrine is nicely landscaped but the trees there had grown over the years. When the route for vehicles was determined by the local organisers, health and safety reasons - it always involves health and safety - the branches had to be cut back. That was the solution.

I presume Mr. McMahon does not have any idea of the cost of that.

Mr. John McMahon

We can get it for the Deputy but I cannot specify exactly what it was. These are aggregations and summary figures. We can come back with more detailed figures.

I know what an ATM is used for and why it is needed. Can Mr. McMahon explain ATM hire?

Mr. John McMahon

I cannot. I am sure it was necessary but I cannot tell the Deputy specifically why it was used.

I wonder why there would be a cost factor involved. I presume the banks were supplying the ATMs. Who got paid?

Mr. John McMahon

Again, I must come back to the Deputy on that.

Mr. McMahon might look into that.

Mr. John McMahon

I will.

Could Mr. McMahon clarify the position regarding the gates? There is a figure relating to gates work - €500,000 plus. Correct me if I am wrong, but the figure for works to the Phoenix Park gates is €244,000. Did Mr. McMahon say the OPW took out the old gates and put in new gates-----

Mr. John McMahon

We took down the existing permanent gates and replaced them with temporary gates immediately after the event.

So the original gates have gone back up.

Mr. John McMahon

They have not yet gone back up. It is the refurbishment of the original gates that is costing the money. We do not yet know how much that will be but we have a reasonable idea. They are covered in about ten coats of paint and that paint may well be holding them together for all I know.

I understand. We did similar work in Limerick and I understand how it works. The new gates will come down when the other ones go back up so the OPW will probably be able to sell those as well?

Mr. John McMahon

I think they were individually made for the particular spaces. They are not uniform. The east gate is a different size and shape. They were made specifically for a particular purpose at that entrance so when they are taken down, they will be scrapped. There will be some value in the metal but they cannot be used anywhere else if that is what the Deputy is asking.

This is the biggest event that took place in Europe. We are talking about the Phoenix Park but we must take the other areas visited by the Pope into consideration. Let us take Knock, which I visited, and the Phoenix Park. A total of 4,000 people worked to make this site available for the Pope's visit. Can we learn from how the ticketing was organised? Yes, we can but the OPW was given a task to put forward with regard to the Pope's visit and we did that. We acknowledge that there is significant cost involved but if something happened and we did not do what we were told to do, the conversation we are having here today would be different. We got that event up and running with no major injuries or anything like that.

There are costs involved.

Deputy Quinlivan referred to the gates. From visiting the Phoenix Park, we all know the number of gates that are there. The specialised work involved in them alone is enormous but we are guided by planning rules and conditions setting out that we must do it and we have taken them on board.

I am aware that the OPW has a very good history in the context of providing apprenticeships. The Pope's visit coincided with a period when the gates needed to be painted. My question goes back to my point about small traders, cafés and food providers. The gates have gone to England. Am I correct in saying that?

Mr. John McMahon

I am not sure.

Where are they being refurbished?

Mr. John McMahon

They are being stored in Ireland. We must tender for that work so we do not know where it will be done. I hope it will be done in Ireland.

Given that a great deal of money will be spent on the gates, could there be some kind of programme in Ireland? There is a long history of foundry work in the Dublin area and in Northern Ireland. As has happened in the past with the OPW, could some kind of training programme be put together so that young people or individuals without employment could become involved in a project in a positive way? The signs I saw around the park were from Actavo. Was it the only tenderer for supplying all the services described here? Mr. McMahon may have to get the information for me. I cannot understand why some smaller businesses and providers would not have got a shot at it. We should remember that the park is on the edge of Dublin so I would have thought that anyone within a two-hour radius of Dublin or even further would have been quite interested in that tender. Was Actavo the only one selected? Was it because it had the exclusive expertise?

Mr. John McMahon

As the Minister of State indicated, it was the largest public event in this country - and possibly the largest such event in Europe - this year. The firms that got the work were procured through invitation and tender on existing frameworks, it was not just a case of selecting on the basis of a single tender for this project. That did not happen; the firms were already on our frameworks. It is a case of horses for courses.

Actavo to get almost all of the work.

Mr. John McMahon

It got a significant portion of the work.

It got pretty much all of it.

Mr. John McMahon

It got €5 million out of €16.5 million paid to date, with €17.5 million probably being the final cost. It got a significant proportion but it was on our framework and had the scale, capacity and experience to deal with an event of this size. Ideally, we would love to engage a multiplicity of smaller contractors but for the management necessary to knit an event of this magnitude together, one really needs firms with experience and scale. It is like building work. One would not get small house builders to build large buildings because they do not have the capacity or experience. That is the analogy I would use.

The OPW has a good record in terms of apprenticeships. The Deputy will recall that during the recession, we had conversations at other fora.

I acknowledge that. The OPW is a great place in which to learn.

Mr. John McMahon

We have taken on apprentices in all the skills and are trying to direct our apprenticeships at some of the less common skills such as the heritage-based skills. That type of work would include work on the gates. We have taken on some apprentices in the metalwork area. The gates in the Phoenix Park represent a significant job.

The Deputy mentioned repainting. This is not just about repainting the gates; it involves refurbishment and, in some cases, reconstruction. The gates suffered as a result of being taken down in 1979 and put back up again. A proper job was not done then. I cannot say why but it was not done.

We were obliged to obtain a licence from Dublin City Council in order to hold the event. This was not required in 1979. Part of the conditionality around the 2018 event licence for the Pope's mass was that we would refurbish the gates properly. We are complying with that condition but we wanted to do it in any event.

Is it likely that the work will be done in Ireland, North or South? There are not that many foundries. I come from a family of foundry workers and I know much about the trade. There are not that many foundry businesses, although there are some, particularly north of the Border. My general understanding is that much of this work will go abroad. Has the Office of Public Works given any consideration to as much of the work as possible being done in Ireland?

Mr. John McMahon

We have yet to tender that work. We are part of the European Union and if work is over a certain value, we must tender it publicly. I cannot say for sure but I would love the work to be done in Ireland. I hope it is done here. If there is not the necessary skill set to do the work in Ireland, the work may have to go abroad. I cannot answer that question for sure just yet.

What is the estimate regarding the overall cost of the gates?

Mr. John McMahon

It is approximately €600,000. That is an estimate and we do not know for sure how much work needs to be done. It could be more or it could be less. I hope it will not be more as it is a lot of money. It is very particular, skilled, slow and painstaking work. The Deputy knows what is involved.

Returning to my original questions, Deputy Eugene Murphy has already dealt with the stewards being listed twice. There is an entry for catering supply at €76,845 and an entry for catering at €16,162.

Mr. John McMahon

They refer to different catering at separate locations. It was the same with stewarding.

What was its purpose?

Mr. John McMahon

It is not double counting.

I am just asking. Was this for the people on the ground?

Mr. John McMahon

Catering was provided for the 4,000 people to whom the Minister of State referred, as well as for the press. Catering was provided for stewards and anyone there in an official capacity was able to avail of catering. It was a long day.

I am only questioning the figures because that is what I am here to do.

Mr. John McMahon

Sure.

Mr. McMahon indicated earlier that the stewards were a mix of private contractors.

Mr. John McMahon

They were mostly private contractors.

Should the private contractors not have catered for their staff?

Mr. John McMahon

I cannot say if those people were catered for. I cannot be sure as to whether they availed of the catering. I have not got the detail of their contracts.

There were 1,000 media staff in one location and there were stewards, etc., at different locations. They had to be catered for. There were also more than 100 people operating cameras and televising this for audiences around the world.

Nobody is saying it should not have been done or that it was not a successful event. We have been charged by the Dáil to examine the figures. That is what we are doing. The Minister of State should not be upset by that.

There is a paragraph that mentions a counting service. What is that?

Mr. John McMahon

I mentioned earlier that there were electronic counters at various points, particularly in the Phoenix Park.

This counted the number of people attending.

Mr. John McMahon

There was a large logistics centre controlled by An Garda Síochána in Dublin Castle and it was part of the costs covered in this. I was in there for much of the event. The information from those counters was sent electronically to the control centre to dictate actions that may have been required.

Mr. McMahon mentioned the Garda Síochána but the force comes under a separate budget.

Mr. John McMahon

Yes. I refer to the counting information being relayed to the Garda.

I understand. There is a category labelled "Miscellaneous".

Mr. John McMahon

This relates to Irish translation. We are subject to the Official Languages Act 2003 and information would have to be in both languages. It relates to the translation.

The gates seem to be catching everybody's eye. The amount is €586,874 in the Supplementary Estimate.

Mr. John McMahon

That is excluding VAT. The VAT-inclusive figure is approximately €721,000.

There is mention of €244,025 in another place. That is approximately €830,000 spent so far on the gates.

Mr. John McMahon

The €244,025 is for taking down the original gates.

I know. I heard all that.

Mr. John McMahon

I thought the Chairman was asking me again.

I am just saying €830,000 has already been spent on the gates and the guesstimate for refurbishing the gates is €600,000. Is that correct?

Mr. John McMahon

Approximately €250,000 was spent taking down the gates and putting up temporary gates.

I understand that.

Mr. John McMahon

It has nothing to with the refurbishment of the gates.

Yes. There is a figure of approximately €586,000-----

Mr. John McMahon

That excludes VAT.

What is it for?

Mr. John McMahon

It is to refurbish the old gates and put them back up again.

There was a separate mention of a sum of €600,000.

Why is it included in the cost of the papal visit?

Mr. John McMahon

We had to take down the gates for health and safety reasons to allow people come in and get out.

I understand that but the indication is the cost is for the work to be done to the gates.

Mr. John McMahon

It was a condition of the licensing of the event by Dublin City Council that we do it. It had to be done. Had we not taken the gates down because of the papal mass, we would not have had to do this work.

That was not my question at all and I understand that completely. Why is the charge for fixing the gates included under the papal visit costs? Would it not be separate?

Mr. John McMahon

We would not have had to do it only for the papal mass.

Okay. They were not going to be fixed.

Mr. John McMahon

We would not have fixed them all in one go this year. The Deputy knows that if we leave something alone, it is okay for longer than if we go at it. When we took them down, their condition was such that many of them would not have been able to go back up again and do the same job they did before being taken down in the first place.

The clarity I seek relates to the figure of €586,874. Separately from that, Mr. McMahon refers to a figure of €600,000. Is it the same figure?

Mr. John McMahon

Yes.

That is all I wanted to know.

Quite a number of Defence Forces personnel were allocated to work, effectively for free. What was the cost to the Army of the Defence Forces personnel working in this way? There are barracks in the area and other public representatives and I received many complaints about how badly Defence Forces personnel were treated. They were bivouacked in the trees around Farmleigh and the weather was terrible. These personnel were not treated with the dignity they deserved. I am not saying the OPW is responsible but we are only looking at part of the cost of this. Some people, including those in the Defence Forces and the Garda, gave much service to the event. What would it have cost for the services provided by the Defence Forces if it was categorised in the same way as the costs of the private security firms listed? Was somebody from a private security firm on €100 per day or a minimum or living wage? Our soldiers were not treated very well, although this was not the direct responsibility of the OPW. At events like this, where Defence Forces personnel are used, they should be treated with dignity and get at least the same consideration as others. Is there a daily rate for what the private security personnel received?

It goes to tender.

Mr. John McMahon

I cannot answer for the Army.

There were quite a few Army personnel involved.

Mr. John McMahon

Yes. We asked for volunteers in the OPW.

Many people volunteered both in Knock and Dublin, particularly in Knock. As to what it cost the Defence Forces, I am not sure it cost anything in terms of their wages because they were being paid anyway. I do not think there was any additional cost in having them in the Phoenix Park as opposed to having them in barracks or anywhere else. That is just my own surmise.

They were out in a tent with very little cover in the kind of weather we had that day.

Mr. John McMahon

I was there. It was an atrocious day but I think Army personnel are well kitted out in terms of protection against the elements.

I wanted to come back to something the Deputy said earlier about the effect of the events in the Phoenix Park. Even though the park is a big place, there is no doubt that the various events impact on the locality which Deputy Burton represents. I am fully aware of that. As a public sector organisation, the OPW wants to be good neighbours to everybody in the area. To that extent we will engage, as we do in any case through ongoing consultation, in a more intense consultation with our neighbours and internal stakeholders in the park, as well as residents associations and others who are impacted by the park. That will take place in the new year. The Deputy might be glad to hear that. Would the Minister of State like to add anything?

No, I cannot add anything. The Deputy may wish to raise matters related to the Defence Forces with the Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe, as they are not matters for the OPW.

I reiterate that the event went off well and everybody was well looked after. Well done to Mr. McMahon and all the staff involved. We do not want to lose sight of that. I seek some clarification on park repairs. The OPW reportedly sought €924,000 from the State coffers to renovate the Phoenix Park in preparation for the event. All the gates were to be removed to improve the flow of pedestrian traffic. I presume the OPW did not need €924,000. Does the €600,000 figure here refer to the amount spent?

Mr. John McMahon

That is different.

Is that the sum that was spent on removing the gates?

Mr. John McMahon

A sum of €244,000 was spent already. Apart from the gates, there were other works that we had to do to the Phoenix Park.

Mr. John McMahon

Dare I say, we did some work conscious of the fact that this was a global event. Maintaining, caring for and presenting parks takes place on an ongoing basis obviously. The grass has to be cut, the flora and fauna looked after, the deer managed and everything else. Hosting this event was a huge exercise. There were other significant bits and pieces, a multiplicity of smaller works, that needed to be done to prepare for it. For example, designated walkways had to be taped off from the main gates up to the event area. There was an awful lot of stuff like that to be done.

I certainly would not accept these figures in the way they are presented to us. Should we request a far more detailed breakdown of the figures for further consideration? No one is questioning the event, how it went off or stuff that could or could not have happened. We are satisfied that the OPW did its job. However, our job is to check the figures and I am not satisfied with the figures, as presented, or the answers we have been given. I ask the OPW to resubmit a more detailed breakdown indicating which companies won the contracts and providing detail on the procurement process it used to piggy-back on, as Mr. McMahon put it. We need to know that.

Mr. John McMahon

We will provide that.

We will then set another date for a meeting to consider that information.

Alongside that, could we also find out the revenue generated by the park in respect of Bloom? Given that the OPW gives it as a contribution to Bord Bia, I think we need to know the parameters. Public parks are important for families and everybody else to enjoy and we need to keep investing in them.

I would ask the same about the arrangement with MCD for the Ed Sheeran concerts. I am delighted to hear Mr. McMahon say there is going to be a public consultation and I know a lot of people will be interested in taking part. Many people are willing to be supportive because they understand something is going back. If it is all just going to private operators, I think we should be told.

Likewise, we can couple with that the Ed Sheeran concerts and how they operated.

This was all very well looked over by the Committee of Public Accounts as well, in fairness.

Excuse me, Minister of State, Deputy Moran, but we have a job to do here which is about expenditure. We have been tasked to do this job by the Ceann Comhairle and the Dáil. That is what we are doing. The Committee of Public Accounts can review it after the spend. We are reviewing it as it is being spent. It is perfectly within our remit.

I would just point out that this is the first time since 2004 that we brought a Supplementary Estimate in here. We have brought in the headline figures and fully appreciate that if the members want a detailed breakdown, we will do that.

That is fine. We have not completed our consideration of the Supplementary Estimate and intend to continue its consideration at a future date.

The expected cost initially for the whole visit was €32 million. Due to the fact that there was a supplementary budget and the Church had to have a second collection, it is obviously going to run over that figure quite substantially.

Mr. John McMahon

We had a working estimate in terms of our involvement of €20 million. That crystallised during the course of the year. Through good management, I would like to say, we succeeded in reducing that cost to what it is now, the figure we are asking this committee to approve. As to the overall cost of the event, I am not so sure. I am only focusing my mind on the OPW.

The clerk will set up a further date to deal with this. At our previous meeting with the Minister of State on an Estimate, I placed on record an issue in respect of Durrow Abbey in County Offaly. I am deeply disappointed that the matter has not been resolved and that a heritage site of value to the State, now leased to an arts for peace project, has been dealt with in such a way. I know there was mediation and letters were sent to and fro. I am aware the council in that county is interested. I appealed to the Minister of State and his officials before and it has come to naught. I intend to raise the matter again at the next meeting. If common sense had prevailed, we might have got to the end of it. In respect of the Estimate the Minister of State is looking for today, some of it might have been found in the accounts if he was to look at the cost of legal fees arising out of the Durrow Abbey case. I have no intention of letting it go. I have serious questions that I am going to put to the Minister of State, not today but the next time. I will submit my questions to him. I can assure him that in the interests of the State and taxpayers' money, I have no intention of allowing this go without some genuine and sincere effort on his side to resolve it.

The select committee adjourned at 3.15 p.m. until 10 a.m. on Thursday, 29 November 2018.